It’s really hard to know how to approach a piece of vacant land. While you may know the size of your property, how it fronts the road, it’s difficult to figure out what you need to do before you can build a cottage.
Here is how we approached our piece of property.
Start with the facts
The thing about buying vacant land for a cottage is that it usually requires some travel to get there. So it’s hard to figure out exactly what the land looks like from the comfort of your urban living room. Regardless, you should have some understanding of the property on the real estate package and local planning offices.
Here’s what we knew about our property before buying it.
- Looking at the property before buying it only gave us a rough idea of what the property was like. We had a vague understanding of the topography: flat field surrounded by lanky trees and scrubby bushes, a rocky cliff on the back half. The kids were excited by the salal and blackberry bushes. The adults were interested in the potential ocean view.
- The real estate package provided information about the size of the lot. We knew how far the property was from local amenities. There was a map of the potential archeological sites in the area with none identified on our particular piece of land.
- The local planning office had a contour map of the area, and we were able to see that the back half of our property had a gentle slope until it reached the dramatic drop off at the edge of the cliff.
Spend time exploring the land
Our first trip to the property was a chance to explore and figure out exactly what we had bought. We found the property markers, then roughly guestimated the boundary between our property and the neighbours’.
We pulled up some invasive broom. Played around on the cliff. By the time we were finished, we had a pretty good idea of roughly where we wanted to place our buildings.
First thing’s first
Buying vacant land for a cottage involves a huge amount of work. Going from a wooded, rocky lot, to a livable vacation home isn’t exactly easy. Especially if you are planning on doing most of the work yourself.
We started by getting advice from 4 sets of friends who were all further along the process than we were. Based on their advice, we started with the following steps:
- Setting up required tools, building materials and camping supplies. All of that needed to be gathered and stored on our property. So our first trip out involved putting together a cheap, temporary shed to store stuff in.
- Our second, third and fourth trips involved setting up a toilet… because although some of us can easily pee off the side of a cliff, that process is much more difficult for me!
- The third major project was to clear some land. Thankfully we already had a driveway, so that wasn’t an issue. However, we wanted to camp on our property as soon as possible. And the property was overrun with Scotch broom, which is an invasive species here in the PNW. Pulling the broom was hard, but burning it afterwards was quite easy. Apparently, it’s full of volatile oils, that burn easily once you’ve set up a hot fire.
With these three tasks completed, we were able to enjoy our property, even before we had a cottage!